Be Food Conscious — Here are 5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

We spend so much time thinking about what we put in our mouths that we forget to think about how it got there and impact it had on the environment. An issue we want to bring to your attention is food waste. According to a 2012 report by the NRDC, about 40% of food in the U.S. goes uneaten.

That is an average of 400 pounds per person per year. Unfortunately, we cannot change how food is grown, processed and distributed in the U.S., but we do have the opportunity to impact food waste at a smaller level. We have five easy ways to avoid or reduce food waste and make a positive impact on the environment.

Check inventory and make a list

Do you make a list of what you need before going to the grocery store? We suggest always making an inventory of what you have and need for the week before heading to the store. This will allow you to keep your refrigerator and cupboards lean and reduce the chance of food going bad. You can even take this a step further and try to keep your recipes under five ingredients. The fewer ingredients you have to use, the less chance for food waste.

Practice “FIFO”

FIFO is a method commonly used in food service workflows or grocery stores. It means “First In, First Out.” To stock your cupboards and fridge this way, think: whatever you put in first must be used first. So when putting your groceries away, make sure to put all the new items behind your old ones. This will ensure you use all your food before it goes bad. Added perk? It can save you some major bucks since you will not be throwing out food that went bad.

Make your leftovers feel like a brand new meal

One common complaint about eating leftovers is wanting something different each night to prevent boredom. A misconception about leftover food is that it needs to be the same food—just reheated. We suggest transforming all your leftovers into new meals. For example, if one night you make a whole roasted chicken, the next night you can use the leftover chicken in a new dish like Easy Shredded Harissa Chicken Bowls.” Planning meals that use similar ingredients is a sure way to reduce food waste. Another tip: Have a big batch of soup or chili and getting tired of it? Add coconut milk to broth-based soup to make it creamy or add an over-easy egg on top of chili. Voila! A brand new way to taste the dish and use it up until it is gone.

Explore recipes that use all parts of vegetables

One big contributor to food waste is scraps. Even if you have a compost bin, there may be scraps of vegetables that can be used before tossing out or composted. Here’s how to use them.

  • Beet Greens: The tops of beets are just as edible and tasty as the beets themselves. Try making a warm golden beet and beet green salad.
  • Carrot Tops: The tops of carrots are fragrant and very similar to an herb. One popular way to use them up is to make a pesto or chimichurri sauce.
  • Broccoli Stems: Want a crunchy, low carb and healthy snack? Turn broccoli stems into cheesy chips. You can also freeze the stems and use them in protein shakes for extra fiber.
  • Chard Stalks: When sautéeing swiss chard, save the stems and make this tasty hummus.

Embrace ugly produce

A big component of food waste comes down to what companies think consumers want. Many times “ugly” produce is not used or thrown away just because of how it looks and not based on how it tastes. While we don’t have the option to change what is being sold at the grocery store, we can support local farms that sell everything they produce. There is also a new box on the market that embraces using “ugly produce,” Imperfect Produce. Imperfect Produce takes fruits and vegetables that farms cannot sell in conventional stores and sells them to their customers at 50% of the normal cost. Sounds like another way to save money and make a huge impact.

There are many different ways to avoid food waste, and this is just a snapshot. Share this with your friends, family or coworkers and get the conversation started. While you cannot change how people act, you can influence their future decisions with education.


Gabriella is a registered dietitian living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently works in corporate wellness as a dietitian and overall wellness coach. She also runs a food blog called Macrobalanced, where she shows people that healthy and balanced eating can be interesting and tasty! She enjoys all things fitness from lifting heavy weights in the gym to hitting the barre. Nothing is off limits as long as sweat is involved. When she is not cooking or sweating, she is playing with her dog Maui, a lively German Shepherd. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.